Reid Forswears Freebies (Updated and Bumped)

After a chorus of apologists insisted that Harry Reid would have broken the law by buying his own tickets to boxing matches, the AP reports that Reid has now acknowledged that he misstated Senate ethics rules in defending his acceptance of tickets from the Nevada Athletic Commission. Reid’s staff now says that he will no longer accept gifts from the NAC:

Reversing course, Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid’s office acknowledged Wednesday night he misstated the ethics rules governing his acceptance of free boxing tickets and has decided to avoid taking such gifts in the future. …
The announcement came after The Associated Press confronted Reid’s office early Wednesday with conclusions from several ethics experts that the Senate leader misstated congressional ethics rules in trying to defend his actions. …
Manley said Wednesday night that Reid “misspoke when he said the rule applies only to senators who represent the state agency.” But he added he believes Reid still could ethically accept the tickets.
“It was therefore entirely permissible for Senator Reid — a senator from Nevada — to have attended a major Nevada sporting event as a guest of Nevada officials,” Manley said.
Several ethics experts disagreed, criticizing Reid’s rationale that he felt obligated to take the tickets to ensure boxing was being conducted properly in his home state.
“He is no more obligated to go to boxing matches than he is to a Celine Dion concert in Vegas,” said Melanie Sloan, a former Justice Department prosecutor and head of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington.

The reaction to the original story was enlightening. Partisans attacked the AP for supposedly having a vendetta against Reid, parsed the ethics rules to find a reason why Reid didn’t violate them, and then postulated that Reid had a legal responsibility to accept the freebie. Even Reid didn’t go that far, and now Reid’s office has pulled the rug out from under his hysterical defenders.
Not one of them asked the question as to why Reid needed a free ticket to a boxing match to determine his vote on increased federal regulation in the first place. He spent years in the industry, as a boxer and later as a judge. What possible information could he glean from sitting ringside to watch Oscar de la Hoya and Bernard Hopkins duke it out? If he wanted to research the boxing industry, that would be the least revealing method in which to do so. As Melanie Sloan says, it would be equivalent to investigating payola scandals by sitting in the front row of a Celine Dion concert.
Anyone buying this line about research and Reid’s legal obligation to accept freebies should have their heads examined. It’s precisely this kind of excuse-making that perpetuates the ethical morass in DC. Politicians do not get paid to accept freebies from any special-interest group, regardless of their nature, when the groups have legislation pending before our representatives. Perhaps if we can all agree on that, we could start cleaning up national politics. Reid’s example was hardly the most egregious ethical transgression we’ve seen, but we shouldn’t be grading on the curve, either.
And I note that we still have no response to Reid’s multiple ties with Jack Abramoff.
UPDATE AND BUMP: In response to a comment left by new CQ reader Muddy Mo, I reviewed the commentary at the TPM Muckraker about the supposed media bias that has unfairly tarnished Reid’s reputation. Paul Kiel argues that John Solomon left out a key detail that exonerates Reid:

Yesterday, we reported that there was a major detail missing from Solomon’s story: Reid didn’t pay for the seats to the boxing matches because they were credentials given to him by the Nevada Athletic Commission – not tickets. Credentials are not for sale. In fact, it is against Nevada state law for the commission to accept money for them. …
[Promoter Bob] Arum is saying that Reid didn’t pay for credentials, because he couldn’t. But when he got tickets, which he could pay for, he did.
Solomon looks at that, ignores the whole tickets versus credentials issue, and makes Reid’s decision to pay or not pay a matter of when he became Minority Leader.

I’m excerpting here, but I would encourage readers to review Paul’s post in its entirety … because it boggles the mind that he thinks this distinction makes any difference. Kiel has argued for two days now that because the NAC gave Reid credentials rather than tickets, it somehow relieves Reid of his ethical obligations. Using Kiel’s logic, the fact that the NAC cannot sell credentials makes them worthless — even though it allowed Harry Reid to occupy seats that cost over a thousand dollars each.
Let’s play that game a little further. If I sat on the Transportation Committee and had accepted a Cadillac Escalade from General Motors, I could excuse it by saying that I wanted to study CAFE standards, and the SUV was a dealer vehicle anyway and not for sale. Perhaps, if I sat on the Foreign Relations committee, I could get a trip to St. Andrews for a round of golf from a lobbyist, and argue that I needed to study Scots Home Rule and the private jet had an extra seat no one was using.
Under these definitions, no gift would ever be unethical, as a moment’s reflection would confirm.
This is such an obviously faulty argument, I’m surprised that Paul even bothered making it. Reid and his apologists can call this anything they want, but Reid got free admittance and ringside seats that had a value in thousands of dollars from an agency that had business before the Senate. I note that John McCain paid for his admittance — and that means the NAC and Reid knew damn well how phony this “credentials” argument is.
I do blame Solomon for failing to mention this more prominently in his reporting. It exposes the NAC, boxing promoters, Harry Reid, and everyone who flacks on his behalf as seriously lacking in integrity.
UPDATE II: Decision ’08 isn’t impressed by this argument, either.
I should say that TPM Muckraker is usually intelligent and provocative, but it falls down hard here.

Hastert’s Folly Revealed

The latest ABC poll shows that House Speaker Denny Hastert miscalculated badly by erupting with outrage over the raid on Rep. William Jefferson’s offices. An overwhelming majority of Americans approve of the search performed by the FBI regardless of party affiliation:

In the rift between Congress and the Justice Department, Americans side overwhelmingly with law enforcement: Regardless of precedent and the separation of powers, 86 percent say the FBI should be allowed to search a Congress member’s office if it has a warrant.
That view is broadly bipartisan, this ABC News poll finds, ranging from 78 percent among Democrats to 94 percent of Republicans. …
Sixty-five percent of Americans give a negative rating to the ethics and honesty of members of Congress. More, 54 percent, rate their own member’s ethics positively, but that’s down from 69 percent in a 1989 poll.
Nonetheless, support for FBI searches is about equally high whether people see Congress as honest or not. That suggests that the interests of law enforcement to investigate wrongdoing simply prevails in the public’s mind over concerns about separation of powers, precedent, and the possibility prosecutors could use such searches to try to intimidate lawmakers. The question in this poll described both sides of the argument.

This shows that Hastert’s hysterics over separation of powers failed to convince anyone to turn Capitol Hill into a sanctuary for wayward politicians. Americans have much more concern over politicians selling their votes than in an arcane (and legally insupportable) argument over the potential for intimidation. Perhaps that comes from a couple of decades of legislative action that has produced asset seizures prior to convictions in drug cases, federal intervention in land rights due to overzealous prosecution of endangered-species regulations, and the blizzard of Congressional subpoenas directed at the executive branch for an unending series of hyperventilated investigations.
Or, maybe, it’s that the American public will not endorse the notion that election to public office grants an immunity from subpoenas and search warrants.
Hastert and Nancy Pelosi have yet to comprehend the paradigm shift in American politics and culture. We demand accountability from our elected officials. When they demand special privileges designed to block that accountability, we no longer remain silent.

Zionist Conspiracist Runs For Congress

The trouble with using elections to clean house is keeping even worse choices from reaching office. Voters can see this dynamic in play in Northern California, where a former Congressman has decided to challenge House Resources Committee chair Richard Pombo for his seat in the Republican primary. However, Pete McCloskey has a lot of his own baggage to carry:

A former congressman and longtime critic of America’s alliance with Israel is hoping voter anger over bribery and ethical breaches in Washington will help him unseat a powerful committee chairman in a Republican primary in California next week.
Paul McCloskey Jr., 78, known as “Pete,” is challenging Richard Pombo, 45, who has spent seven terms in Congress and presides over the panel that oversees energy and public land issues, the House Resources Committee.
In an interview with The New York Sun yesterday, Mr. McCloskey, who served in Congress between 1967 and 1983 and was among the first to call for the impeachment of President Nixon, said he decided to run again because of his sense of an ethical decline among Republican leaders.
“After 12 years in power, I think they’ve been corrupted,” he said. “They’ve done precisely what the Democrats have done during their period in power.”

Sounds great so far, right? I’ve advised conservatives to get active in the primaries and offer better alternatives to incumbents who do not support the conservative agenda, although I am unsure whether that applies to Pombo or not. Even if it does, sometimes the cure is worse than the disease, as we can see from the New York Sun’s further exploration of McCloskey’s past:

While some press accounts of the race have drawn parallels between Mr. McCloskey’s vocal opposition to the Vietnam War and his outspoken criticism of the war in Iraq, news coverage of the current contest has made almost no mention of the ex-congressman’s long history of clashes with Jewish groups.
Mr. McCloskey is a co-founder of a group aimed at revamping America’s “collusive relationship” with Israel, the Council for the National Interest. The group recently took out an ad in the New York Times promoting an academic paper in which professors at Harvard and the University of Chicago claimed that a pro-Israel lobby has a stranglehold on American foreign policy.
In 2000, Mr. McCloskey spoke at a conference organized by the leading Holocaust denial organization in America, the Institute for Historical Review.
“I came because I respect the thesis of this organization – the thesis being that there should be a reexamination of whatever governments say or politicians say or political entities say,” he told the group, according to its Web site. “The Jewish community has the power to suppress, either by advertising or control of the media, news reports that are hostile to Israel…The Jewish community is dedicated to preserve that state, and to destroy those who speak against it.”

McCloskey later said that he had no affiliation with the IHR, claiming to have written them a letter advising them to “get off the anti-Holocaust kick”; McCloskey either has no clue or deliberately evades the point that Holocaust denial is the primary reason for the IHR’s existence. He also denies that he is an anti-Semite, despite his repetition of paranoid theories of Jewish media control. It would be funny if it weren’t so pathetic.
We need to keep our options open in primaries and use them to make our candidates as sharp as possible for the general election. We don’t need to push nutcases past their expiration date into the mix. Republicans should shut down the McCloskey Rant Campaign forthwith.

UN: Rescue Palestinians From Themselves

The UN again demonstrates its fecklessness by insisting that the world owes the Palestinians refuge from their own bad choices, requesting emergency aid donations to stave of a financial crisis of their own making. The UN wants almost $400 million to replace what the Palestinians threw away when they elected terrorists to control their protostate:

The UN has appealed for a near doubling of emergency aid to the Palestinian territories to alleviate a crippling economic crisis after the freezing of foreign funds to the Hamas government and Israeli sanctions against the Palestinians. It has revised the amount it wants foreign governments to donate this year from $215m (£115m) to $385m to prevent the collapse of services such as health and education, and to provide food and medicines.
The appeal document said the UN had taken the unprecedented step of asking for more money because of the “extremely bleak” humanitarian outlook for the occupied territories that is “predicted to worsen dramatically in coming months”. “We’re seeing people cut back on food and basic expenses,” said David Shearer, head of the UN’s office for the coordination of humanitarian affairs. “The situation in Gaza is the most acute.”
An existing economic crisis has been compounded by the freezing of about $1bn in foreign aid from the EU and US after the Hamas election victory in January, and Israel withholding taxes it collects on behalf of the Palestinian Authority.

When we say that the UN exists only to ensure that change never occurs, this is exactly what we mean. The Palestinian elections gave the Palestinians an opportunity to decide whether they wanted to move forward in peace, or whether they wanted to endorse more terrorism. They chose the latter, despite knowing that their Western benefactors would not engage Hamas while the terrorist group refused to recognize Israel. It got worse once their government took power, as Hamas announced that they would not recognize any previous agreements with Israel or anyone else, and that any negotiations had to start from scratch.
The Palestinians know what they need to do to restart aid; they need to have Hamas recognize Israel, forswear terrorism and violence, and agree that previous agreements are binding. The last is especially important. If we had to renegotiate agreements from scratch every time a government changed hands, we would have no basis of trust on which to proceed. If the Palestinians want to argue that their word is worthless, then let them do so. It’s only that much more reason not to support them economically or politically.
The Palestinian approach will not change while groups like the UN insist on buffering them from the consequences of their choices. They elected Hamas freely — more freely than they elected Mahmoud Abbas as president — and that choice carries consequences. If they do not like those consequences, it is up to them to pressure their government to respond in such a way that the international community can re-engage them economically. If we keep treating them as helpless children, they will continue to act that way. When they grow up, then we can lend a helping hand.
We’ve spent most of the last two decades pouring money into the Palestinian protostate, and it has resulted in nothing but two intifadas and the election of Hamas. Having them fend for themselves can hardly produce worse results than an election victory by an Islamist terrorist group.

Santorum Collapsing In PA

The latest Rasmussen poll delivers bad news to Republicans hoping to hold or expand their majority in the US Senate. Incumbent and key conservative Rick Santorum has fallen far behind his challenger, Robert Casey Jr, with only five months left in the campaign:

The latest Rasmussen Reports election poll in Pennsylvania shows Republican Senator Rick Santorum solidifying his standing as most vulnerable congressional incumbent this election season.
Santorum now trails Democratic challenger Bob Casey 56% to 33% (see crosstabs). Our latest survey of the governor’s race also brings good news for the Democrat in that contest.
Last month, Santorum trailed by thirteen percentage points. The incumbent began 2006 down by 20 points and closed to within single digits by March. That was before the Primary Election solidified Casey’s position as the Democratic nominee.
Santorum continues to flounder with his base, attracting support from only 67% of GOP voters. Casey now attracts 87% of Democrats, a ten-point gain since our April 20 poll.

Rasmussen produces consistently reliable results on national polls, which makes this hard to dismiss. About the only bright spot left by these results are that Casey only drew 56% support, leaving 11% undecided. Santorum has poor internals as well, with five percent higher unfavorable responses than favorable (47%-42%). The head-to-head numbers have declined to their worst state so far this year, which indicates that Santorum has all the wrong kind of momentum.
What happened? We knew that Santorum would have a difficult re-election campaign, but I don’t think that even Mark Dayton would get these kind of polling numbers in Minnesota, and everyone knew he could not possibly win another term (everyone, including Dayton himself). When an incumbent only draws 33% in a two-man race, something significant has happened. Right now, Santorum has been caught up in a residency dispute which may have eroded whatever crossover appeal he had. The bigger problem is among the GOP base. Only 67% of Pennsylvania Republicans support Santorum, as opposed to 87% of Democrats supporting Casey.
Lynn Swann has returned to earth in his race to unseat Governor Ed Rendell in PA. He has dropped eighteen points below Rendell in the latest Rasmussen poll, after leading within the margin of error before the primaries. Swann, a novice running for his first political office, still has to define himself more clearly with voters, and he may have hit some Santorum turbulence as well; only 59% of Republicans support him so far. Unlike with Santorum, whose incumbency identifies him clearly, this gap may portend better results for Swann, as he can still win the remainder over during his campaign as he defines himself and his agenda.
If the Republicans cannot win in Pennsylvania in these midterms, it makes it more difficult to carry the state for the national ticket in 2008. The GOP had better call an emergency strategy meeting for Santorum’s campaign and get their party energized quickly if they want to hold that seat.
UPDATE: The fine folks at FreePA say that this is an extension of the Pennsylvania Earthquake that kicked out more than a dozen incumbents in the primary. Swann had supported one of the biggest targets, State Sen. Jubelirer. Santorum, meanwhile, has never mended conservative fences after supporting Arlen Specter against Pat Toomey, according to PennConservative, and the state GOP hasn’t forgiven him for it.
This comes down to a bit of housecleaning by Pennsylvania conservatives, and I applaud that. I would caution them about getting too enthusiastic about it, however, unless they like the sound of Governor Rendell and Senator Casey for the next several years. For Lynn Swann especially, I think conservatives would do better through engagement with this political neophyte rather than an electoral shunning.